News & Events | July 2013
Noted costume designer Mary Rose, President of the Costume Designers Guild, and the FIDM Museum staff are again busy mounting the 7th Annual Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibition, which opens on July 30.
The exhibition will spotlight the increasingly outstanding quality and variety of television programming, as manifest through the costumes. Television attracts top talents who are exploring innovative filming techniques and new methods of story telling with complicated plots and intricate character development.
The world of country music is one genre that has been well represented this year with the hit television series Nashville (costumes by Susie DeSanto) on ABC, and the Lifetime movie, Ring of Fire (costumes by Rhona Meyers). Costumes from both will be featured in the exhibition. Following are conversations with these two designers.
Susie DeSanto (Nashville) has built an impressive career in television and film (working with such A-list stars as Sean Penn, Sandra Bullock, Harrison Ford, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Garner, Katie Holmes, and now Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere) to create the costumes that help transform them into their character.
After so many films, how did you get involved with a TV series?
I had worked with the creator, Callie Khouri, and she sent me the script for Nashville. I said, ‘Count me in!’ I loved it and had wanted to do something set in the country music world forever.
With so many characters and costume changes in Nashville—how do you do it?
Part of the fun is that this show is so challenging. Although we get an outline, we often do not get the final shooting script until the day before the show tapes. And, while Nashville is very sophisticated, it is still a small city and the shopping is limited. I have a full-time shopper in LA and massive amounts of clothes are shipped to me from there and New York. I do not like shopping online, since I am a tactile person, but I have had to add that to the mix.
How do you deal with such a large cast?
I have a great crew of 12 people and we are all about speed and volume. I do have an awesome cutter/fitter in Nashville and next season we hope to create more of the costumes. For our two leading ladies, I need high-end pieces, which sometimes we build ourselves.
But other characters are struggling musicians and they need to look real. Our goal is naturalism, so we shop vintage and thrift stores and find things that look lived in. It is fun to mix it up—sometimes after doing high fashion, I want to go see what is going on at the Salvation Army.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From Nashville! It is to country music what LA is to the film business. Musicians are everywhere and they look great. We see people on the streets, in the clubs, both the icons and the up-and-comers…they are everywhere. By the way, I am totally star struck. Filming in the Grand Ole Opry was incredible—we had our actors in our clothes up on the stage with the musicians—it was so cool.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Seeing the actor look in the mirror, in the costumes we have created, and watching them start to change as they become their character. That always happens in the fitting room and we really get to know them. I have even helped actors select the perfume that their character wears. When I worked with Sean Penn in I Am Sam all he cared about was the shoes. He needed the right shoes to create his character.
How is working in TV different from working in film?
Much is very similar, but I do love how much television has opened up. There are so many great roles for women. I love being part of telling women’s stories.
Any advice for students that want to get into costume design?
Be honest, work hard, and be flexible.
Rhona Meyers (Ring of Fire) has designed costumes for a wide range of projects and media, including for theater, commercials and videos, movies and television. She got into this business via an unusual path:
Did you always know you wanted to be a costume designer?
I was always obsessed with fashion and design. I was an avid vintage collector and thrifter and had a very eclectic style. I was attending UCLA as a fine arts major and was sought out by a director and asked to act in a commercial with Johnny Depp. I did not get the part in the commercial, but they liked my quirky style and offered me a job assisting the stylist. The commercial was for Pepsi and it was the first one made for the big screen. It was a great experience and that is where I found my passion for costumes.
Can you describe your creative process?
That varies depending on the nature of the film, but some things remain constant. The first thing I always do is read the script and do a breakdown. While I am reading, I start the process of researching. Along with being inspired by images, the process is also intuitive—so I dig into my consciousness and ask myself a lot of questions…What is the character’s backstory, their strengths, their vulnerabilities? What do they love and fear? What do they think and believe in? What are they trying to achieve? What is their confidence level, their body language, their morality? How do they change during the telling of the story? The answers form a general outline of character and how that character would reveal themselves in what they wear. Then I go about finding the right images that embody my character. I do that for each character. It is like detective work.
Do you do a lot of research?
I do an enormous amount of research.
If it is a period movie, I will research the period, and the social milieu of my characters within that period. Are they uptight or provocative, eccentric or quirky? How does that look in this period?
As for Ring Of Fire, this was a true story based on an iconic couple with whom people are extremely familiar. The research had to be spot on. It was also a movie that spanned several decades, from the late 1930’s until 2002, in the country music setting. It was important to not only research June and Johnny through those decades, but also the entire country music scene and its performers, The Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, the audience, and the Carter family.
How was that research different from other projects you have worked on?
When I did Monster starring Charlize Theron, I had only one image of Aileen Wournos and she was in her prison uniform. I researched the period, and what someone would wear with her pathology, in her vocation (prostitution), and in her location (truck stops in mid-Florida). I had to dig deep into my intuition to create a look for her. Also, I had to make a breathtakingly gorgeous woman look unattractive. That was not an easy task.
How did you create the wardrobe for Ring of Fire?
I had a limited budget on Ring of Fire to design made to order garments. I had to pick and choose what was going to be created.
There was a very important piece that I could not find while looking in the costume houses. It was the frock coat that Johnny Cash wore on his TV show. It was important since it spoke so much to the “Man in Black.” I located the tailor who created the original coat for Johnny Cash. He is still making country music clothes in Nashville. I told him that I was designing this movie and that I had to have this piece. Luckily, he had a sample in the showroom so he could give me a break on the price. We got Matt Ross’s measurements and we had the exact duplicate of Johnny’s coat within days. It was perfect.
Most of Jewel’s clothes were vintage pieces. Each was completely remade or altered in some way to fit her like a glove. It was important that all of her clothes looked like they were made especially for her. I think we achieved that.
Do you have advice for students that want to get into costume design?
This is a completely rewarding career. It is hard and you have to work long hours. You are not only a designer, but an accountant, a leader, an organizer, a politico. You wear so many different hats as a costume designer. It is not just shopping at Barney’s.
7th Annual Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibition will run from July 30 to October 19, 2013.
Emmy nominations will be announced on July 18, and the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards broadcast will be on September 22, 2013.
Ideally, summer is the time for travelling, letting loose, and savoring long sunny days…
Not so much? Not enough vacation days left for a trip to Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry, or the countryside? Maybe next year…in the meantime, maybe the perfect western-inspired accessory or gorgeous picture book can help provide a little mental vacation.
Here are some new items that might do the trick:
Nothing like a little Americana bling to put some pep in your step. These patriotic belt buckles are made with Swarovski Crystals.
A statement cuff is perfect with jeans and cowboy boots or a little black dress. Made in North Hollywood by Calleen Cordero, each piece is a handcrafted work of art.
This Nitro*A*gogo!® clutch was inspired by vintage cars, pro drag racing, surfing, and the southern California lifestyle. In other words, it is the perfect statement piece. Available in several colors of glitter vinyl, with faux zebra fur lining.
Maybe the countryside you are yearning for is in France. Now, imagine sitting under a tree, blissfully writing poems and notes in this Christian Lacroix journal…heaven.
Founded in Amsterdam over 30 years ago, Cowboysbelt nails the classic western style belt perfectly. A variety of styles to chose from.
Enjoy some summer sticker fun with Sticker Fashionista, the first to feature contemporary fashion. Finally, a sticker book that’s had a makeover. Irresistible.
Seeking more serious fare? Fashion Futures, by Bradley Quinn, is a thought-provoking overview of how fashion will look, perform and be manufactured and purchased in the twenty-first century.
Back by popular demand, these summer best sellers are the perfect read for this time of year:
Kick up your heels with Shoe Love: In Pop-Up. Anyone with a shoe fetish is sure to love the novelties found inside, along with a timeline of shoe history, and five amazing shoe pop-ups.
Bags to Love: In Pop-Up—For centuries, fashionistas have coveted bags—Discover some of the world’s most iconic bags in Bag Love, a stylish pop-up book for grown-ups. Bag Love is a witty and fascinating ode to one of the most essential elements of a woman’s wardrobe: the handbag.
What can we say? I Could Pee on This is on the New York Times’ bestseller list and it flies off the shelves. “This whimsical volume reveals kitties at their wackiest, and most exasperating (but always lovable.)” Maybe its time to get into the fun.
For these pieces and more, visit the FIDM Museum Shop for a fabulous selection of one-of-a-kind jewelry, amazing treasures, and exclusive gifts. See why we have won Downtown LA’s Best Unique Store for the past three years.
Admission to all exhibitions:
Free to the public